Setting New Precedent? Private Insurance Coverage Required for Pretrial Inmates in Oregon

The Oregon Legislature passed a novel law that would save its counties and tax payers money by requiring private insurance companies to continue to cover insured pretrial inmates. As reported in NACo County News:

House Bill 4110, which the Oregon Legislature unanimously approved last month, requires private insurance companies to continue to cover insured inmates being held pre-trial — those who have been “charged with” but not “convicted of” a crime. Historically, county taxpayers ultimately footed the bill for inmate medical care when insurers suspended or canceled coverage of pre-adjudicated inmates.

For counties large and small, it could mean big savings. Claudia Black, Multnomah County’s co-director of government relations, who lobbied hard for the change over two consecutive legislative sessions, said that a statewide survey estimated that, on average, 8 percent to 9 percent of pre-trial inmates have private health insurance coverage in Oregon. That figure could rise to as high 30 percent since the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate took effect this year.

“It’s going to save us at least half-a-million dollars the first year,” she said. That’s money that can be used not just on jails but to meet other county human services needs to serve vulnerable populations.

The article notes that the legislature based the law off of the “guaranteed issue” and “shared responsibility payment” provisions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The state’s Legislative Counsel issued an opinion that a private insurance company denying coverage for covered pretrial inmates would amount to a violation of the ACA. This approach has yet to be used by any other state, however given the potential savings the model may be enticing to other jurisdictions around the country.

For more information read the full article in NACo County News.